Taming the Tiger: Triumph's great all-rounder
While the majority of the South African adventure biking community has squabbled over the BMW/KTM issue and given them a thorough testing often in excess of what the factory envisioned, the rest of the world, with nowhere near the amount of adventure riding possibilities available on their doorsteps - and, possibly, lacking the level of adventurous spirit of South Africans - has seen these bikes in a slightly different role; that of a large, comfortable, capable, all-round machine that will devour miles as easily as a dedicated touring bike, but one which can cut it in a variety of different terrains.
Looked at in that light, the Triumph Tiger 1200XCx (it has lost the ‘Explorer’ name for 2018) is a genuine contender for best all-round adventure bike.
As with all the 1200cc adventure bikes, it is a brave and skilled rider who can expect to get the best out of these behemoths on anything but a smooth gravel road but, then again, the ability is there should you need it.
Modern electronics have done as much as they can to make these bikes manageable off-road, although the only things they can’t help with are possibly the most important; pick the bike up when you have dropped it for the umpteenth time or pay for the resulting cosmetic damages.
Off-road ability is one thing but, to many, it is road performance that is of primary importance. And, by happy coincidence, this is where the Triumph excels.
Firstly, the engine; I would make the possibly controversial observation that a truly effective adventure bike engine has two cylinders; the torque characteristics of that configuration, whether boxer, Vee or parallel, are more suited to plugging through or over terrain than a configuration that requires higher revving.
Call me out on this one, if you wish, but I will use the dearth of any four-cylinder adventure bikes and only one three-cylinder to make my point.
Triumph has long been known for their triple-cylinder engines and thank goodness for that. There are many distinctive exhaust notes in motorcycling but the howl of a triple is right up there near the very top of the list.
Thus the 1215cc, 99kW, 123Nm version that is housed in the Tiger 1200 fills me with a joy that is reserved for only a few power units. It will not produce fireworks, nor will it rip your arms out of their sockets, but what it will do is provide linear acceleration from very low revs right up to its screaming red-line and, if that sounds a little underwhelming, that is because it does what it does with so little fuss, yet manages to do it with so much character that its ultimate performance, of which there is plenty, isn’t immediately apparent.
It is, in fact, everything you could want an engine to be.
The chassis is equipped with the very latest in WP suspension and, on some models, this is electronically controlled and adjusted. I suspect that many of us don’t give suspension a second thought which is probably a good thing as, unless you know an awful lot about it, it is very possible to completely screw up the settings on manually adjustable suspension to the point where it becomes dangerous. Hence, electronic (and instant) adaptability is a bonus, allowing the rider to tailor the suspension to the conditions.
Comfort is the Triumph’s strong suit; broad and well-proportioned seats, easy reach to wide handlebars and good wind protection via an electrically adjustable screen. Heated grips and rider and pillion seats complete the picture.
Cruise control aids long-distance comfort immeasurably and back-lit switchgear helps at night.
It’s a classy place to sit for hours on end and the quality of fit and finish is perfect. The fuel tank holds 20 litres, which is par for the course for these bikes and gives decent enough range. Only the KTM 1290 Super Adventure and the BMW R1200GS Adventure (30 litres both) offer greater range in this class, with accompanying greater weight and bulk. The Triumph Tiger 1200XCx is a truly brilliant all-round bike and it will devour the highway miles with dismissive ease.
It has fantastic chassis dynamics when the road gets twisty and, when the road ends and all that is left ahead is the great African bush, the journey needn’t stop there. Now that is true adventure. Prices start at R250 000.